Security Researchers Unlock Tesla’s Paid Features with Clever ‘Jailbreak’

Alexi Falson

A team of security researchers and PhD students in Germany have found a way to access previously pay-walled features in Tesla’s vehicles that effectively unlock key features without paying for them.

In what’s being labelled as the first ‘Jailbreak’ of a Tesla vehicle, a report from Bleeping Computer’s Bill Toulas detailed just how the researchers at the Technical University of Berlin were able to take advantage of Tesla’s media control unit with an already-identified piece of hardware that allowed access.

Using that as an entry point, the researchers were reportedly able to acess “critical systems that control in-car purchases,” all while “tricking the car into thinking these purchases are already paid for.”

In a briefing, the researchers noted that “Tesla has been known for their advanced and well-integrated car computers, from serving mundane entertainment purposes to fully autonomous driving capabilities.”

They continued to explain that “more recently, Tesla has started using this well-established platform to enable in-car purchases, not only for additional connectivity features but even for analog features like faster acceleration or heated seats.”

“As a result, hacking the embedded car computer could allow users to unlock these features without paying,” they added.

The researchers were reportedly able to access to a bespoke digital signature or ‘key’ unique to each vehicle, the same that Tesla uses to identify vehicles at its dealerships or workshops.

To make things messier for Tesla, those responsible for the exploit say that being a hardware issue, it cannot simply be ‘patched’ with software fixes.

They say that the fault is associated with an AMD processor located inside the media control unit, and they only required “low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware” to get the job done.

Tesla is yet to make an official statement on the exploit, though the team of researchers has denied reports that the jailbreak unlocks full self-driving capabilities, which are locked behind a verification process and a paywall.

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